Housewarming

cowritten with Harukami

“You look stupid,” Ed informed Roy in no uncertain terms, wrinkling his nose at Roy’s suit. It was easier to stare at that atrocity rather than meeting his eyes. “Who the fuck are you gonna impress like that?”

“The theory is that I’ll make a good impression on everyone at the party, Fullmetal.” Roy put on his hat, then looked thoughtfully down at himself. “And young ladies seem quite taken with a man in uniform.”

“Yeah, well — there’s no accounting for taste, is there?”

Roy smirked. “Indeed, I often wonder about yours.” He adjusted the hat to a slightly rakish angle, tilted down faintly over one eye. “You’re the only one who seems to dislike how I look in the dress uniform.”

It wasn’t quite ‘dislike’, but Ed was hardly going to tell him that. “If it’s stupid, it’s stupid. I can’t help that nobody else can see that,” Ed grumbled. He eyeballed Roy suspiciously. “Tell me again why I have to go with you, you shit?”

“You’re still a State Alchemist,” Roy said, raising an eyebrow at Ed’s reflection in the mirror. “Occasionally, that does mean you have to participate in formal events.”

“News to me,” Ed grumbled, and tugged a little uncomfortably at his tie; he’d flat-out refused a military uniform, and opted for a tuxedo instead, which he’d had to make with some clever transmutation of one of Roy’s old formal suits and a promise to change it back later. “Fuck, how do people breathe in these things? I should just –”

“You look fine, Fullmetal” Roy said, turning to him with a serious expression.  “Moreover… if you try to leave, I’ll send Major Armstrong to fetch you.”

Ed stared at him dangerously.

“And he has a, how do I say this…. a specially designed tuxedo so that he can demonstrate his musculature to people –”

“FINE,” Ed snapped. “Let’s just GO so we can LEAVE quickly.”

Roy only laughed and set a palm against Ed’s back, deliberately ignoring the way Ed bristled up at him in immediate challenge. “Off we go, then.”

As they exited the house, Roy offered Ed his arm, elbow crooked towards him. Ed stared at it for a long moment before shoving it away as if Roy had offered him some sort of animal carcass instead. “What the hell! I’m not your fucking date, keep your arm to yourself.”

Roy only chuckled slightly, though his eyes narrowed. “Language, Fullmetal,” he murmured, as they made their way down the stairs to where Havoc waited with the car. “You’re trying to make a good impression, remember?”

Fuck good impressions,” Ed snarled, tugging fiercely at his tie again. “I’d rather –”

“And stop that.” Roy batted at Ed’s hands idly. “It’s rude to rip someone else’s clothing, you realize.”

Ed gritted his teeth. “If I rip it I can fix it. Fuck off.”

Roy sighed quietly, opening the door for Ed. “Well, Fullmetal, in you go.”

“I CAN HOLD MY OWN DOOR.”

“Of course you can. Get in.”

Ed obeyed grudgingly, with his teeth bared the whole time. The look he sent Havoc was a withering one, practically daring the older man to comment. Havoc only grinned, holding up both hands in an easy surrender. “Ah, don’t look at me like that, Boss. I’m just the driver.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Ed glared at him. “Dammit, lucky bastard, getting out of this because you’re not an alchemist…”

“Never bothered to learn for that very reason,” Havoc agreed cheerfully. He touched his finger to his forehead in the barest requirements for a salute as Roy got in, then pulled away from the curb to head down the lane.

“Among other reasons,” Roy said dryly. “So tell me, Lieutenant, does that young lady still believe you can transmute water to wine — ?”

Havoc coughed around his cigarette. “Sir, I thought we’d promised never to mention that again.”

“Feh,” Ed said, sharply. “You shouldn’t lie to people about alchemy.”

Havoc sighed. “You know, Boss, I wouldn’t want to go either.”

“Shut up! I’m teaching you a valuable lesson!”

“Yes, Boss.”

Roy chuckled and leaned back in his seat. Twisting, Ed jabbed him hard with his automail elbow. “What, did you know about this, you shit Colonel? Huh?”

“Of course I did,” Roy said, smirking. “It’s natural for a young man to attempt to impress their crush. Even if that includes acting out of line now and again.”

“It’s stupid,” Ed said, explosively, and sat back in his seat sulkily.

“We’ve all done stupid things for love, Fullmetal,” Roy said, his tone lofty. “Just because you’re too young to ever have –”

“WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU CALLING A LITTLE KID?!”

Havoc scraped out his ear with finger. “If you two could refrain from killing each other while I’m driving, ’cause the fuel’s highly explosive…”

“I’LL KILL YOU –”

“Also, please keep your seatbelt on, Boss.”

“It’s only a few more blocks, Fullmetal,” Roy said dryly. “Surely you can wait that long?”

Ed tugged at the seatbelt again. “Fuck you,” he snarled. “Just — fuck you, asshole, I’m so outta here –”

“Major Armstrong, Fullmetal.” Roy’s expression was serene. “Major Armstrong.”

In the front seat, Havoc twitched. “Oh man, I passed him earlier today, have you seen his tuxedo –”

“FINE,” Ed snarled, baring his teeth again. “Just — fine, fine, fine, but I’m out of here as soon as people’ve had a chance to see me present.”

“That will do, then.” Roy sounded amused, the fucking bastard. Ed crossed his arms over his chest, glare nearly burning a hole in the back of the driver’s seat, and pretended he wasn’t sulking. Havoc knew better than to meet his eyes, but Ed could see his amused smirk in the rearview mirror, and that only made him want even more to punch someone in the head.

“We’re here, folks,” Havoc announced. “Oh, just a note, I’ve heard that the Fuhrer was looking for you two.”

“For us?” Ed blinked as he scrambled out of the car. “What for?”

Havoc shrugged. “Something about planning this year’s assessment? Nobody tells me anything, Boss.”

“Thank you,” Roy said. “We’ll doubtless be leaving in an hour or two, Havoc.”

Grinning again, Havoc tapped a finger to his brow. “Take your time, Colonel.”

“Fuck no,” Ed muttered, falling into step beside Roy as they headed up the stairs. “What’s with this ‘we’ business, anyway?”

“You need to return that suit to me eventually, Fullmetal. The least you could do is stay.”

Ed snorted explosively. “Oh, like you can use it anytime soon. But fine. Though just for that, we’re leaving earlier.”

“If we can, Fullmetal. If we can.”

Bristling, Ed rounded on him. “What do you mean, ‘if we can’? It’s –” Ed advanced again, and was stopped by an arm in front of him.

“Remember, Fullmetal,” Roy said. “Language.”

“I am watching my fucking l –”

Severely, Roy frowned. “Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t want to hear from your brother’s mouth,” he said.

Ed’s teeth clicked shut.

The doors opened, and Ed kept from goggling through sheer force of will; there were more people than he expected, crowded within the parade ground ballroom. Hadn’t Tucker once said only one or two people a year passed — ?

Roy’s hand came down on Ed’s shoulder and squeezed.  Only the sight of a good portion of the room glancing towards the door stopped Ed from shrugging it off violently. “My, a good many of us showed up this year,” Roy murmured.

“There were this many of us?” Ed twisted around to eye him suspiciously. “How many of these people do you KNOW?”

Vaguely, Roy shrugged. “Mmm,” he murmured. “I sat on the interviews committee for a good fifth of these people… and about half of them come to the party each year.”

“This is a yearly thing?” Ed just barely managed to keep from squawking it aloud. “Wait, what, I — how come you never told me about this before?!”

Roy blinked at him. “You were out looking for that thing every other year around this time.”

Ed floundered, then looked away sharply. “… I still had to come back for evaluations every year …”

“Which are a few months away,” Roy pointed out. “I thought your journey was more important than going to mingle with the certified alchemists.” He quirked an eyebrow. “Was I wrong?”

Surprised, Ed paused for a moment, then bit the inside of his cheek and looked away. “… thanks.”

Roy’s eyebrows climbed nearly to his hairline. “Oho, can you say that again? I’m not sure I heard that correctly.”

“I said thank you, asshole, so shut up before I put my fist through your face!”

Stroking his chin, Roy smirked again, smug. “Aha. Well, you’d better get to mingling, Fullmetal. People will want to talk to you. Refreshments are on the far side of the floor.”

“Mingling?” Ed’s expression took on a distinctly trapped edge. “Mingling?”

“Edward Elric!” Armstrong’s voice boomed from nearby. “Is that Edward Elric?”

“…You might want to hurry up with the mingling,” Roy said. At least he also sounded a little trapped.

“Serves you right if he catches you first, asshole,” Ed muttered, and made a beeline for the refreshments.

***

It was two hours later before he could make an excuse to duck out the back, where he gulped fresh cool air as if he’d never tasted it before.

On some level, he’d always considered his fellow alchemists as strange, alien creatures — and all of them, at least in his head, had been peculiar combinations of the handful he’d met, other than the Colonel and Major Armstrong. But meeting with them, and talking with them — that seemed like a completely different sort of thing.

A somewhat masochistic sort of thing. God, was he that egotistical? He doubted it, but still — it was hard to imagine that they could fit so many people who thought they were god’s gift to society into one room and not cause some sort of implosion. It was like some sort of horrid, self-perpetuating cycle, the way they circled around each other, smiling through one side of their mouths and spitting poison through the other. And this was a yearly occurrence?!

Plus, the brief encounter with the Fuhrer — because of course the man would be there, “mingling” among the fragile-egoed, bigheaded asses whose watches bore his insignia, and who wore second names decided by him. Unlike Havoc’s suggestion, though, the Fuhrer had simply smiled at him, asked a few polite questions about his brother, and after that, had been drawn into a conversation with some beaky-nosed lady and her husband. It was then that Ed had slipped out and managed to escape.

“Fullmetal?”

Ed’s shoulders tensed as he expected yet another pompous bastard — but it was just Roy. Who, of course, was one, he reminded himself a moment later. But at least he was the devil he knew. “Whadaya want?”

“The idea of a party is to mingle, you know.” Roy didn’t sound particularly annoyed or censuring, though, which was some relief. “What on earth are you doing out here?”

He considered this, and answered with an uncomfortable shrug. “Trying to breathe.”

“Mmm.” Roy leaned against one wall, sighing.

Ed eyeballed him. “Shouldn’t you speak for yourself, anyway? You’re out here too.”

“Trying to breathe,” Roy echoed.

Slightly nonplussed, Ed leaned back on his heels and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’d think you’d be an old pro at this,” he said, voice completely bland. “They certainly seemed to like you in there.”

“Oh, they love me,” Roy muttered, with a dark sort of humor. “They love getting a chance to see the Flame Alchemist, get a few words of self-praise in, make a good impression, stick in his mind…”

Ed snorted after a moment’s consideration. “So they all’re fighting each other to talk to you?”

“In essence, yes,” Roy said, his tone completely dry. “Whether you believe it or not, Fullmetal, I do exist for reasons other than to annoy you.”

“Yeah — could’ve fooled me.”

Roy raised an eyebrow at him. “No, that’s just what I do for entertainment.”

“You know,” Ed snarled, “I could just tell them you’re out here.”

“And give away your own hiding place? That’s poor planning, Fullmetal.” Roy tilted his head back with a smirk. “You’re something of a novelty here, especially since most of these people have never interacted with you before — that’s not something that fades quickly.”

Ed’s scowl didn’t fade. “I don’t intend to encourage them.”

Roy nodded wisely. “Good idea. Keep the interest fresh.”

“That’s not why I — just shut up.”

“These are some very powerful men and women gathered here tonight, Fullmetal.” The lights did strange things to Roy’s eyes, so that they somehow glittered as they tracked Ed’s movements, fingers drumming against one wall. “Being on their good sides can mean a lot, when you want something.”

Ed stiffened, taking a deep breath. “What I want, they don’t have.”

“They’re all alchemists,” Roy murmured. “And sometimes engage in research that –”

“None of these people understand,” Ed said, voice low. “They just — they aren’t connected, and …” He trailed off with a sharp sound of frustration. “It’s different,” he said, and had to trust that Roy would understand.

“Ahh.” There was no easy way to read that tone. “I see.”

Ed glared at Roy from around his bangs. “Yeah, sure you do. Fuck, let’s just leave.”

“All right.”

Ed blinked. “What?”

“All right, I said.” Roy pushed away from the wall, stepping partially into the light. “I think we’ve spent enough time here to make them thoroughly aware of our presence — now’s the good time to leave them, while they’re still enchanted.”

“Enchanted?” One of Ed’s eyebrows shot up.

“Or, at least, before you make a bad impression by kicking someone’s head in.”

Ed grinned. “Enchanted,” he repeated again. “I like that.”

“You would.” Roy gestured vaguely. “There’s a path through the bushes over there. We can work our way around to the parking lot where Havoc should have the car.”

“You pay that man to sit in a vehicle for hours, doing nothing?”

Roy shrugged. “I think he brought a book.”

Ed made a rude noise as he followed after Roy, picking carefully through the brush. “Lucky bastard — why can’t I get paid for doing nothing?”

“Because, Fullmetal, you’d kill yourself out of boredom before a week was done.”

“I could do research.”

“Then you wouldn’t be doing ‘nothing’.”

“Not if I spent most of the time sleeping.” Ed fell into step beside Roy as they emerged from the bushes and made their way towards the car. “Which, you know, doesn’t sound like such a bad idea –”

“I am not going to pay you to indulge your bad habits, Fullmetal.”

Ed scowled. “You pay Havoc to –”

Roy smirked. “If you’d like to spend all your time driving me around and serving my needs …”

The look of horror that passed over Ed’s face lingered long enough to be utterly comical. Roy’s chuckle carried clearly through the night air, and by the time they’d reached the car, Havoc had the engine idling. He rolled down a window to grin at them.

“Playing hooky, huh?” he asked. “Now, I’d expect that from you, Colonel, but you, Boss –”

Glaring, Ed told him, “Shut up. You don’t know what it was like in there.”

“That bad, huh?”

Ed shuddered theatrically.

“It seemed better to bow out as soon as possible,” Roy said, as he got into the car. “With luck, it’ll still be an hour or so before anyone notices we’ve left.” He glanced at Ed. “Do you need a ride back to the dorms?”

After a moment of consideration, Ed shook his head. “Drop me off at your place, I’ll change out of this damn tuxedo and then head home.

“As he said,” Roy told Havoc. “My house, and then you can go home for the

night, Lieutenant.”

Havoc saluted, grinning in the rearview mirror. “Yessir.”

***

Ed was already tugging at his suit’s tie as Roy went around the house lighting the lights. “Fuck, why do people wear these?” he demanded rhetorically.

“It’s part of the outfit, Fullmetal,” Roy said, returning to the entryway to remove his hat and boots. “If you didn’t tie it so tightly, it wouldn’t be such an issue.”

Ed bared his teeth, but said nothing as he finally managed to get the knot undone, whipping it off with a flourish. “Finally,” he said, with feeling.

“Congratulations,” Roy said politely, not quite keeping himself from smirking. As, scowling again, Ed threw the tie at him, Roy ducked. “Hey, now, did I deserve that?”

“I’m going to call in sick next year,” Ed announced, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring. “You’ve covered for me this long, so I’m sure you’ll be able to think of a proper excuse.”

Roy sighed, undoing his own tie and baring his throat. “You’re so completely ungrateful, Fullmetal. First you seem to think I’m hiding it from you, now you never want to hear about it again.”

“I learn from my mistakes,” Ed said, still bristling. “And I know better than to go back, unless you want me taking off the head of that old woman who seems to think I should still be in diapers.” Disgust radiated from him like a cloud as he swept up his own clothes and made a beeline for the upstairs bathroom.

“As a matter of fact… Would you take her head off if I paid you?” Roy called hopefully.

“Name your price,” Ed’s voice drifted through the door.

“Two thousand.” Roy tugged his shirt open, smirking a little.

“That’s nowhere near enough to get me to go back. Ten thousand, and a year off.”

Roy pondered this, unfastening his cummerbund. “Five thousand, a month off, and dibs on my body for a week.”

“What am I going to do with your body?” Ed snorted, glad the closed door hid his sudden flush. He’d often suspected that Roy knew, but he’d rather not have confirmation. “I’m not your girlfriend, Mustang. Nine thousand, and half a year.”

Sighing, Roy unzipped his pants. “Can’t blame a man for trying — I’m afraid I’m out of bargaining chips, then.”

“You suck at bargaining, Colonel. No go.” A moment later, the door opened, and Ed stepped through, holding the unfolded suit in his arms. “… also, what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Roy quirked an eyebrow at him and folded his pants. “I’m undressing, Fullmetal. I’m sure you’ve done enough of it yourself to recognize the signs.”

“In the middle of the hallway, just as I was coming out.” Ed considered this, then reared back and threw the suit into Roy’s face. “Stupid perverted Colonel.”

To catch the suit, Roy had to drop the pants, and Ed looked away abruptly. “My laundry bin is in the bathroom, Fullmetal. Why should I have to stay in a tuxedo any longer than you?”

“Then go ahead and use it — I’m done.” Ed very carefully continued to not look as he sidled past. “And Al’s probably wondering where I am by now, so –”

Roy’s voice was dry and a little tired. “Alphonse knows perfectly well where you are, Fullmetal.”

“Yeah, but not this late — when I told him a party, I think I meant one of those little intimate things, like when you were promoted. Nothing this big.” At the end of the hallway, Ed cocked his head at him. “I don’t see the point in worrying him.”

After a moment, Roy emerged, pulling a robe closed about him. “As you feel’s best, Fullmetal.” He ran a hand through his hair and began to walk past.

Ed stared after his retreating back, then made an irritated sound. “You’re worse than Winry, you know that? At least she tells me when she’s pissed off at me.”

Roy looked back at him, expression bland. “I’m not angry at you, though.”

“You were in a good enough mood when we left the party,” Ed snapped. Unease prickled his nerves like a physical touch, and he bounced twice on the balls of his feet, feeling oddly trapped by circumstances — the party, the clothes, Roy’s very house. “So what the fuck is wrong with you now?”

“It’s nothing,” Roy said. After a moment, he half-smiled, almost a peace offering. “Would you like to call ahead so Al doesn’t worry?”

Narrow-eyed, still bristling like a suspicious cat, Ed nodded. “Fine. Where’s the phone?”

Roy gestured to the bedroom. “Beside the bed.”

Ed stared at him.

“I need it there in case I get a call when I’m sleeping,” Roy explained. “I’m going to put some coffee on; you might as well have a cup before you go.”

“… fine.” Ed brushed past Roy and into the bedroom. He glanced around briefly as he went; for a man with such a colorful reputation, his bedroom was awfully … plain. Nondescript, even — it had less personality than Ed’s own, scarcely-used dorm room. It looked like a room that was barely lived in, used mostly to sleep and store clothes.

… then again, the Colonel did work a lot.

Ed took a deep breath and made a beeline for the phone, which sat on a small table by the left of the bed, facing the door. For a moment, he considered sitting as he called, but the sheets were so starkly folded, complete with hospital corners, that he felt somehow uncomfortable with the idea. Looking away, he balanced the receiver between shoulder and ear and began to dial.

An operator picked up. “How may I direct your call?”

“Ah,” he said, and forced his hand to untangle from the cord. “I’d like to speak with Alphonse Elric, please.”

“You’re being directed to the dorm head office,” she said. “Please hold.”

He sighed, waiting as the head office sent someone to get Al, and wrapped and unwrapped the cord around his fingers. The longer he spent in there alone, the more he could feel his shoulders tensing.

He was in Colonel Roy Mustang’s fucking bedroom, a place that had been delegated to nearly-mythical status in the barracks. And even if the rumors were usually perpetuated by men outside of his unit, angry over a girlfriend’s wandering eyes, that didn’t stop them, or make them any less pervasive. Being in the house alone, knowing that Mustang looked at him like that, was enough to make him jittery, damnit, he didn’t need —

On the other end, the phone picked up. “Brother?”

“Ah — Al!” He nearly fumbled the phone, catching it in both hands and bringing it back up. “Uh, hi.”

“Is everything all right?”

Just hearing his brother’s voice was enough to help him relax, a bit of familiarity in this unfamiliar place. “The party sucked,” he said, easily enough. Despite his nervousness, he grinned. “I’m glad I’ve managed to escape it for this long. Hey, whadaya say about skipping town, this time next year?”

Al made a faintly disapproving sound. “If it’s a requirement, Brother, you can’t expect to keep playing truant from now on. You’re technically an adult now, so they’ll be very annoyed if you don’t go.”

“Whadayamean, technically an adult?!”

The tinny sigh was fond but exasperated. “I mean that if you want to be treated as one, you have to act like –”

Ed scowled at the phone. “ANYWAY, I’m just calling to be responsible — I’m over at Mustang’s right now.”

“Oh?” He could hear the way Al’s voice went up on that last note, and that reminded him to be nervous again, damnit. Sooner or later, someone was going to have to tell his brother that he made a fucking lousy matchmaker. “Are you staying?”

“Hell no,” he said, a little too quickly. “I’m having some coffee, and I’ll be right back.”

Al paused a long moment. “Coffee,” he said.

“Yes, coffee. You know, caffeinated beverage, popular at the office? Coffee.”

“I see.” There was a certain tone, almost knowing, in Al’s voice, which only irritated Ed more — where did his brother get off, being amused by this? He fisted his left hand tightly enough in the cord to turn the knuckles white and stayed silent until Al spoke again. “Well, then, Brother, I’ll see you in the morning.”

“What? Hey, wait!” Ed sputtered. “I said I’d be –”

“It’s late, Brother,” Al said patiently. “I was only waiting up for your call. Since I know you’re all right, I’m going to sleep now.”

Ed gritted his teeth. “Oh,” he said. “Well. I’ll be home soon. Sleep well, Al.”

“Ah…. you too, Brother. Don’t worry about hurrying home, take time to enjoy your coffee –”

“Al.”

“Goodnight.” The phone clicked as Alphonse hung up.

He scowled fiercely at the receiver for a few long minutes afterwards. It was too bad, he thought sullenly, as he put that down and headed out of the room, that there was no way to carry an alchemical reaction through a phone line. What the hell was Al doing, being so smug like that, like he expected Ed to be LATE after he was responsible and called —

Roy looked up as Ed stalked his way into the kitchen. “Ah, Fullmetal. Good timing — the coffee’s just brewed. How would you like it?” He’d already poured himself a cup, black but for a dollop of cream.

“Black,” he said shortly, and threw himself awkwardly into one of the tall chairs by the counter. “Nothing else. I’ll just have that and leave.”

“Is your brother all right?” Roy poured a cup and passed it over, steaming hot.

Ed snatched it without thinking, then hissed and transferred it to his automail hand only, shaking the other hand hard. “He’s fine. Said he was glad I wasn’t dead, and stuff.”

“Ah, that’s good. You seemed anxious.” Roy sipped his coffee, exhaling heavily as he relaxed. Ed watched his shoulders fall, watched his face slacken slowly.

“Eh,” Ed said, and shrugged. “Al worries about me too fucking much. He’s going to bed, so I’ll have to let myself in.”

Roy chuckled. “He does seem to worry when you go places he’s not allowed to follow. Not that I think he’d have enjoyed the party, but I know he’d rather not have you go alone.” He sipped his coffee again, watching Ed across the table with narrowed eyes. The neck of his robe had slipped slightly, revealing a thin slice of pale chest.

A moment later, Ed pulled his eyes hastily away, uncomfortably aware that he’d been staring, and looked down at his coffee instead. He shrugged a bit at that, occasionally shifting the hot cup from one palm to the other. “Al’s better company than all of ’em. I keep trying to convince him he should retake the test someday, but …”

“The difficulty is that it’s not an easy life, this one,” Roy said, “but he’s insisting on living it without any of the perks of Certification. I can understand that — there are places that someone without a watch can go where one with a watch would be just another dog of the military … but it’s not much of a life.” He leaned back in his chair and sighed, tilting his head back to watch the ceiling, throat exposed.

Ed pressed his lips together, watching the line of Roy’s neck from the corner of one eye. After a moment, he cleared his throat and began to drum his fingers against the cup again. “He deserves those benefits, though,” he murmured, voice low. “I’m tired of people acknowledging him as me — he should be known for himself, not because he’s what they think the Fullmetal Alchemist should be.”

“He does deserve them,” Roy agreed. “And I’m certain that he’d pass the exam if there were no physical component — He got all but one question on the written exam correct when he was ten, after all. But if he doesn’t want to…”

“If he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t want to,” Ed agreed with a sigh. He dropped his gaze to his hands, shifting the weight of the cup slowly from one palm to the other. “He’s thinking about going back to Rizenbul for a year after we restore him, just to see where he’d rather stay, and …I’m really hoping he’ll stick it out here.”

Roy tilted his head back down, staring at Ed for a long, stunned moment. “… Well,” he said, finally. “I — whatever he thinks is best, of course, but I can’t really imagine what things would be like without him after so long.”

“Yeah.” Ed hunched his shoulders a bit, frowning at his coffee and the countertop. “I don’t think he’ll stay forever, but he’s always liked the idea of going home more than I have.” He lifted his head and gave Roy a small, wry grin. “It’d be good for him, too.”

Equally wry, Roy smiled back. “A quiet life would suit him, if it’s what he wants. I’d miss him, but he has to do what makes him happy.”

“Right. As long as he’s happy, that matters most.” Ed sighed again, and put his cup down. “I think I’m done. Thanks for the coffee, Colonel.”

Roy put his own cup down and folded his hands on the table. “Is there anything else I can get you, Fullmetal?”

Surprised, Ed blinked, looking at Roy warily. “… no?”

Roy’s sigh was almost sub-vocal. “Then I’ll walk you to the door.”

Blinking again, Ed pondered him with some bemusement, then cocked his head wryly. “Thank you — ?”

Rising, Roy tugged his robe more tightly closed with one hand. “I think I hear a touch of rain — I’ll loan you an umbrella.” He headed slowly, with perhaps a touch of tiredness in his step, to the hall closet.

Ed followed him, frowning at the line of his back. The thought struck that he’d apparently said something wrong, but he had the distinct impression that asking would only get him another cryptic answer and brush-off. He watched as Roy pulled out an umbrella, accepting it silently, before he looked up at the older man with a quizzical expression.

There was a small, understanding smile on Roy’s mouth. “Walk carefully,” Roy said. “Say hello to your brother for me if he’s still awake.” He unlocked the door for Ed and opened it, glancing out at the spitting weather a moment before stepping back.

He began to say something, watching Roy disappear back into the kitchen, then scowled at the weather as he wrestled the umbrella open and stepped outside. The night had gotten significantly colder since they’d escaped the party, and he carefully closed the door behind him, shivering as a blast of wind blew rain under umbrella and into his face.  Grumbling, he set out, shoulders hunched against the cold, hoping the wind wouldn’t blow the umbrella inside-out.

He stopped near the end of the street for a breather and looked back. Roy’s lights were still on, a faint warm glow through the rain. As he watched, though, the living room lights went out, leaving only the kitchen and bedroom windows lit.

It’s no good, he thought and turned away determinedly again, rounding the corner. No good can come of it.

He stopped at a crosswalk, shivering — despite the umbrella, it was windy enough that he was still getting decently wet as he walked. The streets were almost deserted at this time of night, and each streetlamp gleamed like one more beacon guiding him home. The bastard’s fourteen years older than me. Reputations have to have SOME grain of truth to them. And I’m not around often enough for it to —

A car drove by, and he narrowly avoided the sudden splashing wave of water tossed up by its wheels. Growling, he pulled the useless umbrella shut and pivoted on his heel, marching back the way he’d come. Fuck it.

It took a minute of hammering on the door and his teeth gritted as his irritation rose with the beat of the rain, which sliced down around him. “Come on, you bastard, open the fucking –”

The door open and he half-stumbled inside. He heard a startled sound, and a moment later an arm caught him and helped pull him upright. “Fullmetal?”

Well, he didn’t have to sound so fucking surprised. Ed sniffed, slopping wet bangs from his eyes as he looked up into Roy’s bemused face. “Your umbrellas suck, Mustang,” he growled, then had to look away before he remembered to be embarrassed.

“Ah,” Roy said, apparently at a loss for words. “… I’m sorry.” He shut the door behind Edward and drew his shoulders up, tugging his robe more tightly closed again. “I hadn’t expected the rain to get so fierce so quickly.”

He’d gone cold again, professional, and Ed snarled, at himself as much as at Roy, and shook his head, spraying droplets everywhere.

“If you’d wait a moment, I can get you a towel.” Roy stepped around him, carefully not looking. “I’d prefer if you not get water on my wood floors, Fullmetal.”

Ed sneered at him, and clapped his hands loudly. He saw Roy twitch faintly at that, and it made him feel distinctly smug before he pressed his hands to his own chest, letting the alchemical reaction dry his clothes, if not his hair.

“…or you could do that, yes.”

“I don’t need you to take care of me, you know,” Ed said, steaming faintly in the hall. “I can take care of myself just fine.”

“I know.” Roy was silent a long moment, hands clasped loosely at his sides. “Well, would you like another cup of coffee to warm up while you wait out the rain?”

“I –” he began, then eyed Roy thoughtfully. He still looked too coolly distant for Ed’s tastes, professional despite being in a old faded robe, and Ed had to swallow hard around the sudden reemergence of anxiety. Maybe this sort of thing was only a one-shot deal, a chance he’d had and lost when he’d given up —

Resolutely, he pushed those thoughts aside and nodded. “Uh. Yeah, sure.”

Roy nodded back, inhaling slowly and letting it out as if — as if this were some sort of trial to him, as if he were suffering, and Ed didn’t have time to say anything to that before Roy turned and went back into the kitchen. He could hear the clink of glasses in there but it took him a long moment before he could uproot his boots from the hall carpet, fighting the urge to just leave. But that would render the whole scene in the hallway useless, and while he had no problem with showy displays, he despised the idea of hypocrisy.

He’d made it this far, he could at least stick it through, until Mustang told him to fuck off and kicked him out.

At first, he thought he’d walk in at the regular pace, just stride in and show how much he didn’t care, even if Mustang didn’t have the politeness to at least pretend Ed’s presence wasn’t an inconvenience to him now — but at the last moment, his footsteps faltered, and he almost crept into the kitchen, hesitating in the doorway as he watched Mustang pour a fresh cup of coffee. The distance now seemed a lot more than a few meters, or fourteen years, and he stuffed his hands in his pockets against the urge to go far away very, very fast.

Roy turned back and looked at him in the doorway for a long moment before smiling very faintly — it could hardly be called a smirk, for once — and came over, stopping hardly more than a foot away before he held out the coffee. “Here.”

Ed shuffled forward fractionally, looking at a point on Roy’s chin rather than meeting his eyes. In his ears, his heartbeat was pounding loud enough to deafen him. “Um,” he said, as he took the cup, curling his fingers slowly around it. “Thank you.”

Lightly, Roy touched Ed’s head, by his temple. His fingers were startlingly warm. “Your hair’s still wet,” he said. “Come upstairs, I’ll get you a towel.”

“Ah,” Ed squawked, eyes snapping up. “Um. Okay.”

“It’s quite all right, Fullmetal. Last I checked, my towels don’t bite.” He slid his hand to Ed’s shoulder, pressing lightly.

Ed swallowed hard, looking at the hand on his shoulder, then took a deep breath. “Yeah, sure. A towel would be good,” he said, trying and failing to keep his voice strong and self-assured.

“Come, then.” Roy didn’t quite let go of Ed’s shoulder as he steered him towards the stairs, fingers a warm pressure. “You look half-drowned.”

“Your own fault,” he said, weakly. “Giving me a half-ass umbrella like that, Colonel.”

“It’s a perfectly functional umbrella, Fullmetal,” Roy said mildly, and there was still nothing more than a slight warming to his voice, though at least it was something. “It’s not my fault you couldn’t use it properly.”

Ed opened his mouth to protest that, then clicked it shut again, faced with the half-open bedroom door.

Roy saw where he was looking and — it was probably a misinterpretation, it had to be one. “Why don’t you go in and have a seat? I’ll bring the towel.”

Damn it. Damn him — ! He had no idea why Ed was looking — or he did, and that was somehow more awkward.

Ed sucked in a deep breath, squaring his shoulders as he pushed the bedroom door and entered for the second time. It didn’t look any different, which should not have surprised him — but it did, somehow, as though it was supposed to shift and reflect his own change of heart. Slowly, he approached the bed, then perched nervously on the edge of the bed, keeping his hands in his lap.

Roy came in a few too-long moments later, carrying a large white towel. He slowed as he approached and Ed thought there was something on his face like trepidation, though Roy’s expression went professionally bland a moment after their eyes met. “Can you take your hair down?” Roy suggested. “It’ll dry better.” After a few seconds, he took the last few steps over and held the towel out.

For a moment Ed just stared at it, like he expected the thing to snap at him despite Roy’s reassurances. Then he tugged it out of Roy’s hands and into his lap, pulling his heavy braid over one shoulder and wrestling with the tie, which was tangled in wet hair. He froze as Roy took a seat beside him, then inhaled and let it out slowly, forcing himself to relax. Resolutely, he kept his eyes cast down towards the end of his braid until he pulled the red band free, and started to undo his hair.

Roy simply watched him, something odd occasionally flickering through his eyes, though it never stayed long enough to be identified.

Ed swallowed around a suddenly tight throat, as he combed his fingers through his hair one last time and wrapped the towel around it, squeezing water out. It felt like he was being judged somehow, on trial for something he didn’t quite understand, his every move observed and weighed.

He jerked when Roy’s hand joined his on the towel, rubbing it in, and bit back an immediate retort. It wouldn’t do any good — he couldn’t do anything if he didn’t let Mustang do that, at least, but — it was personal, way more personal than he thought it’d be, and it was just his hair, just his damn hair.

“Relax,” Roy said.

He wanted to argue that, the protest sharp in his throat. He sucked in a deep breath, willing his shoulders to relax as he let it out. The pressure made his scalp tingle strangely, something that had never happened any time he’d dried his hair alone. His gaze flickered briefly to Roy’s face, trying to assess the man’s expression as they both worked on rubbing his hair dry.

Roy was tense, and his gaze was intense as he looked at Ed’s hair and his hands on it. “… is this any better? It’s longer than I remembered …”

“It’s,” he began, then paused to lick his lips, sucking in another deep breath. “No, it’s fine.”

“Good,” Roy murmured, hands falling from Ed’s hair, the towel sliding to his shoulders.

Perversely, he wanted to protest that, too — even with Roy’s hands gone, his scalp still tingled, and he scrubbed harder at his hair to try and rub that sensation away. Roy was still watching him, something veiled and thoughtful in his gaze now; he didn’t seem relaxed, but at least he seemed … closer than before, which in itself seemed stupid to think. Ed looked at Roy’s knee and resisted the urge to nudge it, and see if his own leg would pass through it. It just didn’t seem real.

Roy’s hand rose again and, after a moment, settled on Ed’s back. There were three layers of cloth between Roy’s hand and Ed’s skin but Ed could feel the heat of it, feel his muscles move and tense under Roy’s touch. He inhaled, looked up at Roy.

Roy looked down at him solemnly. The distance in his expression had melted, but it was replaced with something else now, equally confusing. Ed licked his lips, and willed his hands to stop shaking.

It was … weird, the way Roy’s eyes instantly jumped to that movement and stayed there, the way his eyelids lowered, the way his next inhalation was sharp and fast. Breath caught in Ed’s throat, he did it again, watching Roy’s face carefully the entire time.

Roy’s teeth gritted — actually gritted — and he leaned closer.  “Fullmetal,” he said, voice low and resonant. Then, “Edward …”

Ed took a deep breath, desperately glad his voice didn’t shake when he answered. “What?”

Roy put his hand to Ed’s cheek, dragging it down, slowly, to run his thumb over Ed’s lower lip. “You don’t have to do this,” Roy murmured, leaning in.

As he took another long, deep breath, Ed’s gaze flicked from Roy’s face to the wall. Roy’s hand felt shockingly warm on his face. “I know,” he said evenly. “I — wouldn’t be here, if I had to.” His eyes closed, a little uncertainly, and he wished briefly he could know what was going to happen.

“Good,” Roy said, and ran his tongue over Ed’s lower lip.

Twitching sharply, Ed’s eyes flew open in surprise. Of their own accord, his hands lifted to fist in the front of Roy’s robe, holding on tightly. Roy’s lips followed a moment later, pressing to Ed’s almost chastely, a soft touch that left his mouth strangely itchy, buzzing and too-sensitive. He made a low, confused noise and shifted against Roy.

This was kissing, and this was the fucking oddest thing he’d done in his life, and all he could do was flex his hands and lean hard into it.

One of Roy’s hands threaded into Ed’s hair, fingers curling around the curve of his skull, and Roy tilted his head, touched his tongue to Ed’s lips again as they kissed, running it along the tightly closed line of them. Startled, Ed pulled back, mouth opening faintly in surprise. Roy pressed the advantage immediately, and Ed made another surprised sound as Roy’s tongue slid into his mouth. He drew in a sharp breath through his nose, and carefully, hesitantly, responded in kind.

Roy’s tongue stroked along the side of his and that was weird, it was bizarre — things that went in your mouth weren’t supposed to squirm — but after the initial shock it wasn’t so bad after all. Roy made a low noise as Ed’s tongue flicked against his. The sound was dark and heavy and needy and it shot straight down Ed’s belly.

Ed sucked another sharp breath through his nose, and flicked his tongue again, shifting as closely as he could. Roy gave off heat like a furnace, which didn’t surprise Ed at all. Even in dry clothes, he could still feel the lingering cold from outside, so he leaned into the heat — just to get warm, really, just to get warm. His entire body was tingling now, restlessness gathered in the bit of his belly, and he tugged a bit at the front of Roy’s robe, making another small, shivery sound.

Hand clenching in Ed’s hair, Roy pulled back slightly from the kiss, exhaling heavily as Ed followed him, leaning up. “You haven’t done this before?” Roy murmured, then nipped lightly at Ed’s lower lip.

Ed blinked at him hazily, then licked his lips. It took several swallows before he could find the voice to speak. “… no.”

Roy’s thumb rubbed the skin over Ed’s left cheekbone. “Tell me if you want to stop.”

Leaning into that touch, Ed stared at his hands, still curled in Roy’s robe. “… yeah. I mean — no, no, I don’t.” Defiant, Ed raised his chin, scowling. “Let’s do it.” There was a brief pause as Roy looked at him, considering, and Ed’s scowl deepened. “What?”

“All right,” Roy murmured, and leaned down to kiss him again. Ed surged up against it, opening his mouth immediately, the feel of it almost familiar now, and if not familiar, at least still good. Roy’s hands tangled in Ed’s hair as he kissed him, nearly fierce, nipping and licking at Ed’s mouth. Ed made small, low sounds of encouragement that bubbled up in his throat as he kissed Roy back, letting go of his robe finally to slide his arms around Roy’s shoulders, not quite clinging.

Sighing into Ed’s mouth with strange contentment, Roy’s flicked his tongue again, hands flexing against Ed’s scalp. In response, Ed twisted, pressing closer. A whimper escaped from him as he did, Roy’s body a strong line of pressure from chest to waist, and he shoved his hips desperately against Roy, trying to find the best position to touch, to keep touching and not stop. It was hot, tight, not quite pleasure but tension, and his throat felt thick.

In response, Roy pressed Ed back against the bed, bearing him down with his weight and leaning over him. “Edward,” he murmured, but it seemed more an affirmation than a question, as one hand slid free from Ed’s hair to skitter down his side.

The hand on his waist was almost gentle, half-ticklish and half a strange caress which lit fire down his sternum to his belly. Ed’s body rolled against the mattress, pressing up as strongly as he could against Roy, gulping against that bizarre tension. His fingers clawed at Roy’s back and and shoulders, a hazy sound of affirmation answering the sound of his name. A moment later, he opened his eyes and looked up at Roy, blinking owlishly. “… Roy?” The name felt odd in his mouth, with its own distinct flavor.

Slowly, Roy pulled back enough to look down at him. “Mm?” he asked, tugging at Ed’s tanktop to untuck it.

He licked his lips nervously, then said, “If it hurts, I’ll kick your ass.”

Roy stared at him a long moment before his head fell to Ed’s shoulder. He murmured something incomprehensible, then made a strange noise.

Ed craned his head and gave Roy a suspicious look before prodding him in the shoulder. “What?”

Laughing harder, Roy shook his head into Ed’s shoulder, tucking fingers under his shirts to rest against his side. “Nothing.”

Scowling, Ed punched his shoulder again. “Fuck you.”

“If you’d prefer,” Roy replied, amused, and tugged his fingers out from under Ed’s shirt. Before Ed could respond, Roy slid his hand down Ed’s  belly, following the burn he felt with each breath. “I was just admiring  your ability to put these things in perspective,” he said, and cupped the  front of Ed’s pants firmly.

Ed’s eyes rounded, a shocked sound ripped from him. His head snapped back against the sheets as he thrust his hips up hard against Roy’s hand.

Roy ran his thumb down the seam in the front of Ed’s pants, his eyes lowered to watch his own hand. “I don’t… think I’ll hurt you, no, but I understand, well. What you’re saying.”

Dragging his head against the pillows, Ed murmured thickly, pushing his hips up again. “I,” he groaned, curling his hands against the sheets, “don’t care, don’t stop.”

Roy pulled his hand away, as if in response to those words, and Ed snarled.

“Don’t you want this off, Fullmetal?” Roy asked, completely innocent, hands on Ed’s belt.

Ed scowled again, then swatted Roy’s hands away and began to wrestle with it himself. And Roy, smug bastard, simply leaned back and smirked at him. Ed stared at his hands to avoid looking at that expression.

He didn’t have control of this, he thought blindly, hands shaking as he unlooped his belt and tugged it free, his watch clinking to the bed. He wasn’t sure when Roy had regained the upper hand like that, had gone from the person he’d seen when he’d been drying his hair back to the smug Colonel, but …

Twisting sharply, he started tugging his pants down, then paused consideringly and tugged his boxers back up. His body felt tight and uncomfortable, and the idea of being naked in front of Colonel Mustang, all heavy-eyed confidence and grace, made his entire face burn. Running away wasn’t an option any longer, but fuck it if he’d simply lie back and accept it.

“Fullmetal?” The humor had dropped from Mustang’s voice, as easy as that. “Is something — ?”

Ed shook his head fiercely, reaching out again, fisting his hands in Mustang’s robes, trying to pull him back down. Roy came down, his robe opening behind the belt as Ed pulled at him. His voice was mild, though a little concerned. “All right.”

Ed answered by kissing him fiercely, sloppy, in clumsy imitation of Roy’s earlier kisses, squeezing his eyes tightly shut.

Sliding a hand under Ed’s shirt, Roy ran his fingers over Ed’s chest, slowly exploring the lines of muscles and scars. He kissed Ed in kind, teeth and tongue and sucking heat, and at least he didn’t seem to mind the clumsiness, purring low into Ed’s mouth.

With a sharp twitch in response, Ed shifted his weight, wrapping his legs awkwardly around Roy’s hips. After a moment, he let go of Roy’s robe and pushed fingers inside, dragging his hands against warm skin, trying to copy the movement of Roy’s hands over his own chest. In his throat, a half-keening noise started, echoing the rough movement of his body.

Roy pulled back a little and gave him a thoughtful, measuring look. It only took a moment but seemed way too fucking long and Ed rubbed against him, breath and noises ragged.

“All right,” Roy murmured understandingly, and slid his hand under the elastic of Ed’s boxers, taking hold of his erection firmly.

Ed moaned, a rising shout, unable to keep command of the volume. He clawed desperately at Roy’s shoulders, fingers catching and slipping free of the robe’s folds. His entire body felt strange, tight somehow, everything focusing down to Roy’s hand on him, moving strongly, confidently. Control had slipped from him again, and though he clutched for it desperately, it continued to leak away, as though every pull of Roy’s hand was dragging it out of him.

Roy jerked him quickly with a firm grip, fingers firm and hot on him. His own breath heavy, Roy let his head drop to Ed’s shoulder, where he mouthed at the join of automail and flesh, nipping lightly towards the neck. The sensations were too much, way too much, and Ed had heard a whole lot of stupid metaphors in his life, but he hadn’t thought they were true, hadn’t thought it really would overtake him like a wave. He gritted his teeth, perversely trying to fight it off, nails digging into Roy’s back, and felt breath strangle in his throat, body burning, every muscle tightening to the point he could feel and hear automail groan. He thought, vaguely, he might be saying something but couldn’t hear it beyond the roar of blood in his ears.  Inside him, something was winding up tighter and tighter, until he thought he might shatter, pulled in too many directions at once —

And then, clarity. His eyes snapped open, wide and staring before his body locked and he cried out something garbled and almost pained, heat flooding through him in a dizzying rush.

It seemed to leave him as quickly as it came, leaving him limp and drained under Roy, his chest heaving as he tried to catch his breath. He became aware that Roy was making soft, soothing noises, and that his fingernails were quite firmly embedded in Roy’s back, and that Roy’s hand had trailed a sticky path up his belly, and that Roy was murmuring his name.

He licked his lips, trying to clear his throat to say something, and realized, with distant surprise, that he was shaking. Not hard, not dramatically, but it seized up his voice, and the most he managed was a moan that sound distinctly pathetic to his own ears.

Roy leaned up and kissed his forehead, lightly. “Don’t force it. It’s all right, just breathe for now.”

Ed moaned again, trying to blink away the languor he could feel creeping into the edges of his awareness. This time, he managed to make a sound that was fairly close to Roy’s name as he loosened his fingers from Roy’s back.

Relaxing a little, Roy trailed circles on Ed’s stomach, still murmuring, his lips making a brief pattern down the side of Ed’s face to his ear. Ed twitched from that, then whined in his throat, plaintive. He didn’t know what he was asking for now, though, with his body feeling drugged and heavy and strange, like it wasn’t quite his own any more. Blindly, he tilted his face up, then blinked at Roy again.

Roy dropped a light, chaste kiss on Ed’s lips. “Tired?”

Ed licked his lips automatically, then made a small negative sound. After a moment, he managed to force up his drooping eyelids to scowl at the amusement that flickered over Roy’s face.

“All right, all right,” Roy agreed, eyes glittering. “You’re perfectly awake, I see.”

He growled in his throat. “Fuck you,” he rasped, and just managed to avoid a yawn. “I’m not –”

Roy ran his tongue lightly over Ed’s lower lip. “I’m not arguing. Do you see me arguing?”

Ed sighed, stretching up for a kiss. “Then.” He pulled back, and blinked, eyes narrowing. “The next part’s what might hurt, right?”

“If you want to do that,” Roy said, agreeably. “If not, we don’t have to.” He raised one hand, about to run it through Ed’s hair, then noticed its state, stickily wet. Coughing dryly, he brought it to his lips instead, tongue flicking out over a finger.

Ed blinked at him, brows and nose wrinkling. “What else is there?”

“Hands, mouths — rubbing, mostly. Like just now.” Roy pondered and licked another finger, idly. “Feet, even. Humans are inventive. But –” He shrugged, meeting Ed’s eyes. “It’s important not to do something you don’t want to.”

“Feet?” Ed raised an eyebrow. “Humans are fucking weird.” After some consideration, he bit his lip and lifted his chin. “What would you prefer?”

Roy curled down next to Ed, mouthing at his earlobe. “I’d enjoy any of that.” His voice was still rough, huskier than Ed was used to hearing from him, but at least he didn’t seem urgent, content to just rest and kiss along Ed’s jawline.

Ed tilted his head back, shivering a little at the touch of Roy’s mouth. “I don’t,” he began, then turned a little, lifting his hand to touch Roy’s cheek. “I don’t know what you’d like,” he admitted, voice low, not quite looking into Roy’s eyes. “So –”

Running a hand through Ed’s hair, Roy pushed Ed’s bangs back away from his face. “I would like that, if you want to.” He lipped lightly at Ed’s mouth. “Inside you, I mean. But the others all feel quite good, and I don’t mind waiting. We’ll be able to do this again sometime, won’t we?”

Ed’s eyes widened, fighting something that felt suspiciously like relief.  “I want to,” he said, reaching up to tug Roy’s robe the rest of the way open. He closed his fingers over Roy’s shoulders, then gave him a wry half-smile. “So let’s.”

Exhaling heavily, Roy seemed to relax at that, hands tickling along Ed’s sides. “All right, then.” He ducked to kiss him again, a bit of a smile curving his lips up. Languid now, Ed turned his face towards him, his kiss still clumsy, but less sharp-edged and desperate than before. His hands moved down from Roy’s shoulders, sweeping curiously across his chest, following the lines of muscle slowly downwards.

Roy sighed, deep and pleased, arching up to give Ed more room to explore, and the open edges of his robe curled down around them like a tent. Catching his lower lip between his teeth, Ed’s gaze was intent as he watched his fingers spread wide across Roy’s chest. The female body he’d studied long ago, when he was a child, in the hopes of making one — but the male body he understood only in terms of his own, narrow and scarred. Roy was built more solidly than he was, broader at shoulders and hips, warm skin that twitched and shifted as he tested the muscle underneath with careful fingers.

And he was so responsive, making low noises in answer to Ed’s careful, exploratory fingers, body moving, his skin warm and his chest rising and falling with deep breaths. Ed ran his fingers down Roy’s belly to his navel and stopped there a moment, his shallow breath the only sign of his nervousness before he ran his hands back up to Roy’s chest and settled them there, tweaking a nipple as the safer option.

Roy dropped his head down into the crook of Ed’s neck and shoulder, moaning deeply in his throat. Ed did it again, the nub hard and hot between his fingers, brows furrowed as Roy shifted against him. He slid his automail hand up to curl around the back of Roy’s neck, kneading gently, as if trying to soothe, a bit taken aback by the urge. Half to distract himself, he turned his head to press a lopsided kiss to the side of Roy’s face, murmuring low nonsense.

The muscles of Roy’s back and neck were tense, almost surprisingly so, though he seemed relaxed enough otherwise, expression loose as he nuzzled into Ed’s neck and licked there, lips and tongue hot on Ed’s throat as Ed explored. He shivered at the brush of Ed’s mouth on his ear, breath catching, and Ed tried that again, tongue running along the rim.

Roy groaned aloud, body shivering. Ed’s eyes widened when Roy’s hips pressed down into his own, the heat and pressure against his thigh completely unmistakable. He sucked in a deep breath and opened his legs wider, bending his knees up to frame Roy’s waist, still kneading carefully at the back of Roy’s neck.

As he shifted again, Roy’s erection rubbed against the skin on the inner curve of Ed’s ass, and Roy made a soft, choked noise in his throat. “Edward…”

Murmuring back, Ed closed his eyes and pushed his hips up, rocking gently against Roy. His automail hand opened, sliding down the line of Roy’s spine, as far as he could reach.

Roy began to pull back and Ed’s hand tightened in the small of Roy’s back. “Edward…”

“I thought you wanted to,” Ed said, fingers drumming a suddenly nervous pattern on Roy’s skin. “Don’t you want to?”

Roy’s chuckle sounded more pained than amused, and he bent quickly to kiss Ed again, lingeringly. When Ed finally relaxed, he pulled back, resting their foreheads together. “I want to,” he said, low, “but there are certain — preparations that are necessary.”

At first, Ed just blinked at him, not understanding. Then, as light dawned, he went red and let go of Roy, dropping his hands back to the bed and gloving them in the sheets.

Roy sat up and dug through the bedside table’s drawer. Ed watched the movement of his back, the curve and knobs of his spine. After a few minutes of aimless searching, Roy sighed. “It’s been too long …” Then he hmmmed, and picked a glass of water off the bedside table, turning around with it.

Dubiously, Ed eyed him, still flushed.

“Edward, can you transmute this? We’ll need an oil — not too thin but not too thick, either, and it certainly shouldn’t be stinging or otherwise dangerous on the skin. If that’s not enough for the first stage, I — think I have something in the bathroom.”

He blinked, then propped himself up, first onto his elbows, and then to a sitting position. Pursing his lips, he studied the water, then shrugged. “We’ll see if I get what you’re talking about,” he said, then clapped his hands together, curling his fingers into the glass, so that the tips were submerged in water. The reaction flared briefly, sparks climbing out of the cup and trailing down the edges. A few wound their way down Roy’s hand and wrist before they faded out.

“There,” Ed said critically, pulling his hand out and rubbing thumb and fingers together. “How’s that?”

Roy dipped his own fingers in, then pulled them out again, dripping some. “Perfect,” he said. “As expected.”

Ed hunched his shoulders a little, blush not entirely faded. “It’s the best I could do with that sort of description.”

“It’s fine, Edward,” Roy said, setting the cup aside and kissing him again, briefly. “Try to relax a little. If it hurts, we’ll stop.”

He scowled at that, then nipped at Roy’s lower lip. “How many times do I have to tell you, I want to?” he asked, exasperation edging his voice. Abruptly, he crooked a smile at Roy. “I trust you.”

Roy blinked at him. After a moment, he smiled back, faintly. “All right, then.” He leaned a bit against Ed’s shoulders, directing him to lie back again, kissing on the way down.

There was no hesitation when Ed lay back, one arm slung about Roy’s neck.  When Roy pulled back a little, he mustered another small smile.

“This’ll feel a little strange,” Roy warned him, and circled his two oil-slick fingers at Ed’s entrance.

Ed sucked in a sharp breath, his fingers closing in a hard flex on Roy’s shoulders. His mouth fell half-open for a moment, and then he swallowed hard, leaning forward to press his forehead to Roy’s chest. “Weird,” he rasped, dragging his head slightly under Roy’s chin.

“Weird,” Roy agreed, reaching behind himself for the glass and dipping his fingers in without looking, then put his hand back again. He circled them once more, then pressed the tip of one finger in. “A lot of people find this part uncomfortable the first time, because it’s not — they aren’t used to being touched there. If you do, that’s …” his brows furrowed and he pushed a little further, up to the second knuckle. “… normal.”

A sharp sound escaped Ed, his fingers kneading constantly against Roy’s shoulders. He breathed slowly, deeply, willing himself to relax even as he shivered against Roy, and the strange burning stretch. Closing his eyes tightly, he dragged his forehead against Roy’s chest and muttered nonsense, voice tight and strained.

Roy murmured back, leaning down distractedly to kiss the top of his head, teeth gritted against the suck and pressure around his finger. He slid it in fully, moving slow, and carefully twisted it, brushing against — something that sent sparks of curling flame up Ed’s spine.

Ed cried out at that, his body spasming hard around Roy, knocking his forehead hard against Roy’s collarbone. He gasped a few times, then shook his head. When he licked his lips, his tongue brushed briefly against Roy’s skin. “Wha –”

“Ah, good,” Roy murmured, slowly tugging his finger back out. “That’s promising.” He smiled faintly against the top of Ed’s head.

Ed raised his head slowly, blinking at him. “Wh — you’re stopping?” Disappointment laced his voice.

Roy blinked down at him, eyebrows lifting. “No,” he said, when he seemed to find his voice. “I’m not stopping.” He dipped his fingers in the glass again, then pressed two in, slowly and carefully.

Ed sighed, the sound stuttering and breaking off on a sharp note. On Roy’s shoulders, his fingers tightened again, and he dropped his head back, exposing the line of his throat as he shivered around two fingers.

Wetting his lips, Roy leaned back to watch Ed’s face as he slowly, very slowly, pulled them back a little and thrust them back in. A hiccupping, near-sob escaped Ed at that, his face twisting. He worried at his lower lip as he moved his hips cautiously back against Roy’s hand.

Oh,” Roy murmured, seeming torn between surprise and arousal. Teeth gritted, he thrust his fingers in again, angling them up ever so slightly.

The breath strangled in Ed’s throat on a sharp, surprised noise, his head snapping up. He stared up into Roy’s face without seeming to really see it, then drove back on Roy’s fingers sharply, mouth falling open.

Roy inhaled, brows furrowing as he fought for focus. “Fullmetal … Edward, I –”

Ed licked his lips, trying to speak, and only managed a heartfelt moan.

Tugging his fingers out a little too quickly, Roy twisted, fumbling for the glass of oil. “I’m sorry, Edward, but …”

Distantly, something flashed in Ed’s eyes, and he mouthed sorry? at Roy, his brow furrowing.

Roy didn’t see, shrugging out of the housecoat while lubing himself up. “… I really don’t want to wait any more.”

“Ah.” Ed licked his lips again. He blinked hazily at Roy’s hands, then frowned again at the sight of Roy’s erection, and shifted nervously.

Running a hand over Ed’s belly, Roy hesitated. “… is that all right?”

Closing his eyes, Ed nodded and shifted his legs open. “Just do it,” he muttered. “Don’t let me stop and think about it.”

Roy nodded, putting one hand under Ed’s ass and lifting. Ed grabbed onto the sheets, legs coming up to tuck against Roy’s sides, and exhaled, closing his eyes and turning his face away.

Slowly, teeth gritted, Roy started to press in.

Breath hissed out loudly between Ed’s teeth, his face tightening. He caught his lower lip between his teeth again, biting down on that hard as he tried to force himself to relax again, breathing deeply as he could.

“Too fast?” Roy asked, voice husky and ragged.

Ed’s mouth worked a few times, but he finally managed to rally himself enough to shake his head. He reached up with his flesh hand, hooking it behind Roy’s neck and holding on as he pushed back with his hips, weakly.  It hurt, somewhere between a burn and an ache, but —

Roy groaned, head dropping to Ed’s shoulder as he pressed in further, shaking with the effort of, Ed guessed, going so slowly. “Say,” he managed, dry mouthed, “If you need me to stop …”

The hand around his neck flexed weakly, and Ed murmured at him, wordless and breathless as he twisted. Around Roy, his body relaxed fractionally.

With a low sigh, Roy slid nearly to the base then stilled, shuddering with effort, his breath coming shallowly.

Ed groaned, soft and deep in his throat, fisting his hand hard against the loosened sheets of the bed. His eyelids fluttered, then squeezed tightly shut. He felt tight and strange and too hot, the pressure of Roy inside him solid and undeniable, as though it had pressed all the breath from his body. A low noise ripped free from Roy as, slowly and laboriously, he began to pull back. His next thrust in was a little faster, and he drew his brows down, expression tight, mouth a little open.

“Nngh!” Ed’s head whipped to the other side, and he bit down on his lip, hard enough to draw blood. Against Roy’s neck, his hand fisted and pressed.

Again, Roy pulled back slowly, then jerked his hips forward, tilting them up at the last moment, his breath hissing between his teeth. A guttural noise tore from Ed’s throat, his body shaking hard. His eyes popped open, staring blankly up at Roy’s painfully intent expression.

Roy looked down at him for a long moment as if he didn’t see him, then groaned and leaned down to kiss Ed, thrusts shifting to a quick pace. His kiss had turned sloppy, distracted, all shaky teeth and tongue. Ed kissed back as best he could, whimpering painfully in his throat as he moved back against Roy. Each thrust back in drew another sharp sound from Ed, mewling and thin. It was tight — tense, his breath coming shallow, rough, but it was a weird feeling, deep, low, almost good. He felt stretched almost beyond his limit but it was a strange thing, shifting between a bad ache and a good one, shiveringly different.

One of Roy’s hands stroked restlessly up and down the outside of Ed’s leg, from hip to the joint of automail and back up. He kissed Ed again, breath gusting awkwardly over Ed’s lips and into his mouth, low noises on his lips as he kept up the pace.

Please, Ed wanted to say, and the word came out as a drawn-out moan. His body was pulling tight again, settling firmly on good, everything concentrated between his legs, but he couldn’t make himself let go of Roy’s neck or the sheets to reach down and try to soothe that ache; the most he managed was arching up hard against Roy on the next thrust, rubbing himself against Roy’s belly as best he could.

Roy wet his lips with the tip of his tongue and thrust in again. He started to shift to change his balance and the movement pressed him up inside Ed again, making Ed groan and arch, legs clasped tight to the side of Roy’s chest. “Please,” he managed this time, strangled, the word heavy and unfamiliar in his mouth.

It seemed to hit Roy like a physical blow; for a moment, his hips slowed as he pulled back to blink down at Ed. His smile, when it came, was shaky and thin, and he shifted his weight carefully to one arm as he began to move again, still at that one particular angle. Just as Ed drew in the breath to snarl again, Roy’s free hand reached down and pressed against him, trapping him between his own belly and Roy’s palm.

Ed moaned, arching back against him, driving Roy deeper in. Sparks curled at the base of his spine and Roy’s hand was hot and tight on him, sliding over the slickness of his erection as Ed bumped back against him.

Heat curled in the pit of Ed’s belly and spread outwards, his body twisting desperately up against Roy. It felt like freefalling off the edge of some unfathomably high cliff, each thrust of Roy’s body into his own driving him just that much closer. That same moment of perfect clarity from before seemed to hover close by, just barely out of reach.

Groaning, Ed vaguely heard the blankets rip under his automail hand and didn’t give a damn. He shoved back hard again, gasping for air between moans.

And there it was, that single clear moment where everything was perfectly defined, even with his eyes closed. He arched hard one last time, twisting his hips as he did, and choked. Against closed lids, he saw a white starburst, heard a long, mewling sound and thought it was probably himself.

Roy kept moving and Ed twisted again, jerking helplessly. It was almost too much, all sensations jumbled together, and he pressed his fingers into the bed as if he were trying to dig his way through. The moment faded slowly, sparks sending convulsive shivers through his body, and against him, Roy was shaking, sweating, pressing his face down against Ed’s shoulder.

His entire body felt strange — too sensitive and drawn-out, but somehow separate from him, pinned to the bed only by virtue of Roy’s weight pressed down atop him. Every small shift between them sent another bright shiver of sensation through him. Ed licked his lips one last time and tried to say Roy’s name — and managed only a small, single syllable.

Breath catching, Roy thrust forward and froze, a low noise strangling in the back of his throat as a sudden sharp heat spread inside Ed, Roy’s hips twitching forward in short, quick movements.

He drew in another sharp breath at that, whimpering thickly — one more strange feeling culminating on top of all the others. When Roy collapsed atop him, heavy and solid, the most Ed could managing was an emphatic ‘oof’ — he could still breathe, though barely, and that was enough for him. His body felt too lazy and heavy to bother moving otherwise.

Roy was still a long moment, shivering a little, before he shifted back, sliding out of Ed so that Ed could uncurl from under him, legs slipping back down to the bed, heavily. Other than that, Roy just didn’t move either, face pressed to Ed’s shoulder.

Ed sighed, letting his head loll heavily to one side, nosing into Roy’s hair. The sound he made into it was soft, questioning.

A long moment later, Roy shifted, rolling to his side enough to look at Ed, eyes tired, smiling faintly. “Mm.”

Sleepy-eyed, Ed blinked at him. After a moment, he cleared his throat and asked, rusty, “Stay?”

“Stay,” Roy murmured, voice still sex-roughened.

Ed smiled faintly at that, then scooted closer, pressing their foreheads together. His eyelids fluttered, then began to drift closed, and this time, he didn’t try to hide the yawn that split his jaw.

Roy murmured, smiling faintly. After a moment, he added, vague, “But under the blankets, maybe?”

“Blankets, sure,” Ed slurred, not opening his eyes.

Tugging at the blankets, Roy paused to press at Ed’s shoulder. “…you’re on them, Fullmetal.”

Ed scowled faintly and lifted his shoulders just enough for Roy to slide the blankets under. “Shuddup, sleeping.”

Roy chuckled softly, his voice still rusty. Ed was only distantly aware of heavy cloth weight being draped around his shoulders, a moment before he was pulled into a loose embrace. He cracked one eye open, eyeing the patch of bare skin pressed against his face, then sighed and closed his eyes again. It wasn’t that uncomfortable, and he felt too deliciously languid to try moving on his own.

He’d let Mustang get away with it this time, he decided. Just this once.

***

Ed woke and found himself sticky, stiff, and with Roy snoring rather inelegantly in his ear. He inhaled slowly against Roy’s weight, then let it out, not quite sure how he should feel.

He tried to shift his weight a little, then gave up when he found himself well-pinned. It wouldn’t be difficult to dislodge Roy if he tried, but … whatever happened, when Roy woke up, he doubted that tossing one’s lover out of his own bed was exactly good manners —

Lover, he thought, turning the word over in his head. That word was oddly frightening, more so than making the final decision to stay at Roy’s house for the night.

Frightening and … well, sappy. Yeah, he wanted to do this again — that was certain. But there were all sorts of things that came with the word ‘lover’, like ‘dates’ and ‘romance’ and ‘flowers’ and things he’d vaguely come across now and again in other people and wasn’t quite sure he wanted to deal with himself.

Against his shoulder, Roy snorted and his brows furrowed in his sleep.

Ed chewed on his lower lip thoughtfully — and this was Roy Mustang. Of all people he could have fallen into bed with, there couldn’t be anyone more annoying or flat-out smug — or, er, so in demand among the female population. Did “again” mean only once more, twice more — or until they were both tired of it?

He sighed loudly, fixing the top of Roy’s head with a sour look. At the very least, he could’ve slept with someone who didn’t take such a perverse joy in complicating everything in his life, and had since his early childhood.

… since early childhood.

There was one thing in knowing that you were considering a guy, and another in knowing he was considering you, and a third in that fucking fourteen year difference … but the age difference never seemed quite as disturbing as how long Roy had known him, how long Roy had been acting the exact same way.

Ed poked Roy’s shoulder. “Hey.”

Roy groaned faintly in his sleep and nuzzled, turning his face firmly into the crook of Ed’s neck and shoulder. He flinched at that, the sensation less pleasant and more outright ticklish than he remembered from the night before. What the hell, if this was another act … Ed shoved at Roy’s shoulder again, gritting his teeth. “Hey.”

Face squinching up, Roy groaned again and blearily creaked an eye open. “Nmg?” He squinted at Ed a long moment before he seemed to realize exactly who he was looking at, then pushed himself to a sitting position fast, scrubbing at his face with his hands.

Ed resisted the urge to crack a smile at that — hah, who knew Roy Mustang was so not a morning person? — and cleared his throat loudly. He started to shift his weight, then winced as the low-grade ache and stiffness intensified in a shot, unpleasant and unexpected.

“Good …” Roy groped around for his watch a moment and then gave up. “… morning.”

“Is it.” Ed sat up slowly, gritting his teeth against the feeling, less outright pain and more of a deep ache.

In retrospect, he shouldn’t have been surprised that it hurt, not with how uncomfortable it had been initially, but it was still fucking embarrassing. And if it was embarrassing making even the smallest of mistakes in front of Mustang, he wasn’t looking forward to when the man’s brain woke up with his body and he could be smug again over what he’d done. His breath hissed out, and he clamped his mouth shut, straightening instinctively against the pain.

“Fullmetal?” Roy looked at him, more awake than before, but still hazy, and he was vaguely surprised at how the reversion to his title stung, in some small distant way. “Is there something wrong?”

“Nothing,” Ed said, and it came out with a bit of bite to it. He watched as Roy’s face went startled, then faintly hurt, then blank. “… I’m going to use your shower.”

Roy nodded, after a moment. “… go ahead. I’ll put coffee on.”

He should say something, Ed thought, watching Roy slide carefully out of the bed and snag up the robe from where it had been discarded onto the floor. He should say something, because fuck it all if the Colonel wasn’t trying to go distant on him again, burning bridges over gaps so wide that even alchemy couldn’t cross them — but his voice sat stubbornly in his throat, as though trapped, and by the time he thought maybe he could say something, Roy was gone.

Groaning, Ed rubbed at his temples and very carefully swung his legs over the edge of the bed and stood. He still felt sore, but at least he could walk without showing it. He hoped.

It wasn’t a big deal, he told himself, stretching carefully down first one leg then the other. He’d hurt worse from sparring, let alone actual fighting. It wasn’t a big deal.

…even if he never hurt in quite so personal places after sparring.

Teeth gritted, he stomped his way into the bathroom. This room, too, was stark and clearly not personalized, Roy’s toiletries in a bag — an actual bag — on the counter, as if he had just moved in for the weekend and didn’t want to bother unpacking.

It felt like being in yet another goddamn hotel, so impersonal and removed from anything he remembered a home being. Even in the dorms, he could look at it and see actual traces of his personality there, and Al’s — they kept no decorations themselves, but it was in the way Al insisted on arranging their books, or the way Ed kept their laundry hung on a string pinned up between their beds; it still looked like it belonged to them, and not anyone else.

Not like Roy’s whole fucking house seemed to be. Ed caught sight of his expression in the mirror and turned the full force of his scowl at his own reflection.

“Fuck this,” he said. “Fucking hell, I don’t need to deal with a guy who’s got no fucking idea how to live in his own damn house.”

He showered quickly, washing away stickiness and sweat, and felt a little less sore when he left, though still angry, almost more than he could explain. He tugged his clothing back on, trying not to remember how it had been removed, and stalked downstairs.

“Coffee’s almost ready, Fullmetal.”

“Don’t bother,” Ed said, heading towards the door. “I’m not staying.”

Mustang was silent a long moment before saying, simply, “Ah.”

His voice sounded quiet, completely devoid of emotion, and that only made Ed angrier, because it was like being thirteen again and trying to ask the Colonel a question, trying to be taken seriously and meeting only a solid blank wall, masked by smug amusement.

And if after this many years Roy was still fucking with his head, then Ed sure as hell saw no reason to stay.

Then, before Ed could find something, anything to say to that, Roy added, “Why?”

Why. Why — ?

Ed looked him up and down. “Why the fuck should I have coffee with you, Colonel? Give me one good reason.”

Roy seemed oddly taken aback by that; Ed saw it flicker in his eyes for a moment, before that was shuttered as well. “I …”

“Because let me fucking tell you, Colonel,” he snarled, stabbing a finger at Roy, “if you want to fuck me again, sure, fine. It was fun. But I’m not your fucking playtoy that you can amuse yourself with when you’re bored and don’t want to drink by yourself. I’m not in the habit of letting people use me to keep themselves occupied –”

Roy’s patience seemed to fray at that, and he put his mug down on the counter a little too firmly. “What the hell are you talking about, Fullmetal?”

You,” Ed snarled. “I’ve known you for five years and in the whole time you’ve been so fucking amused at everything I do, like I’m the fucking new toy you can’t wait to break in, and now it’s the morning after the first time I’ve fucking slept with anyone in my life and you might’ve just checked us into a fucking hotel, for all that you’re making it matter and — and –” His breath hitched embarrassingly, and he pinched the bridge of his nose hard to cut off the words. “I have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.”

Staring at him, Roy stepped closer. He didn’t reach out to touch Ed, just looked down at him for a long moment. “Fullmetal,” he said, quietly. “Edward. Last night, you told me you trusted me. What have I done to change that?”

Ed didn’t move his hand, squeezing his eyes shut. “It’s like talking to a fucking statue,” he muttered. Louder, he added, “You’re too damn paranoid to hurt anyone. But you could fucking respect me enough to use my goddamn name.”

I am an idiot, he told himself, forcing himself to keep his eyes shut. I’m a fucking idiot and acting like a fucking girl and I’m getting out of here right fucking now before he laughs —

Roy’s hand came down on his shoulder. “Do you think I use your title lightly, when I know what you went through to earn it?”

Ed stiffened.

“Besides, Edward — what have you been calling me?”

Ed kept his lips tightly pressed together for a moment. He had several vague memories of whimpering all sorts of stupid things the night before, which even in context were fucking embarrassing. “Mustang?” he offered weakly.

“Why?” Roy reached down, circling Ed’s automail wrist with his fingers.

“Because,” he said, still weakly, cracking his eyes open wide enough to watch Roy’s hand curl around his arm, a gradient of pressures against the nerve sensors. “Because it’s the closest you fucking let me get.”

“‘Roy’ is fine,” Roy said, gripping Ed’s wrist and raising it, carefully.

“You say so now,” Ed said quietly. “And the moment I step back, you’re fucking doing it again, and I’m not going to call you that if you’re not gonna make it worth sticking around.” He curled his fingers loosely, but didn’t pull them back. There was a knot in his throat that made swallowing nearly impossible, and the ache in his head dwarfed the stiffness from the night before.

“There are things you know about me that nobody else does. There are things I know about you, likewise. And yet you get angry, I get amused — do you think these are masks? …I don’t, really. They’re just moods we have.  Why do you think I’m any farther from you when I’m smiling than when I’m not?” Pondering the wrist he was holding, Roy looked at that rather than at Ed’s face. “Are you scared, Edward?”

Fuck no.”

“Ah.” Roy sounded almost sad now, turning Ed’s wrist slowly in his head. “That’s what I thought.”

“You got a problem with that, asshole?”

Roy looked up finally, at his face. “Yes, I do. I’m frightened, Edward. These things are frightening.”

Ed’s brows furrowed at that. He opened his mouth to say something, then checked himself roughly, still staring at Roy. “You’re scared.”

Somehow, it was the last thing he could have ever expected the man to admit.

“Of course I am.” Roy certainly didn’t sound scared, cool and calm as he pressed his thumb to the base of Ed’s hand. “Despite what you seem to sometimes think, I’m only human. These are the times we’re most vulnerable, least able to think of anything to say …” He shook his head and cracked a dry smile. “Especially before coffee.”

“You and your coffee, Mu — er. Roy.” Ed flexed his hand slightly, then licked his lips. “What, is coffee equated to sex with you?”

Roy’s eyebrows raised and he slowly let go of Ed’s wrist. “Sex is more enjoyable, but I could go without it more easily than coffee. Addiction, you know.”

Ed took his wrist in his other hand, flexing it slightly. “I suppose,” he said doubtfully. “… I really should go,” he added, a moment later, dropping his eyes. “Al’s gonna be wondering where I am …”

Roy picked up the cup and pondered it for a moment before holding it out to Ed. “Stay,” he said. Then, more quietly, “Please, Edward.”

Ed stared at the cup. He was an alchemist, and well-used to studying the implications and meanings of symbols. He sighed, then reached out, curling  both of his hands around it, brushing Roy’s fingers as he did.

“Thank you,” Roy murmured, smiling faintly. “Would you like breakfast?”

Ed took a deep breath, trying a wry smile of his own. He didn’t feel better, really — that was too concrete and large of a word. Something still felt tremulous and nearly fragile about the whole situation, too small yet to really stand on its own. Pushing too hard now would snap it, he was sure, and at least he no longer felt like smashing Roy’s face into the wall several times.

“Yeah,” he said, softly. “I’d like that.”

Roy let out a breath he hadn’t seemed to be holding. “Good. Any preferences? Oatmeal, cereal, eggs — ?”

It was on the tip of his tongue to even ask if Roy had that much food — but the kitchen was the most personable part of the entire house, the only one where it looked like he actually spent time beyond the necessity of cooking and maybe eating. Ed shrugged. “Toast. I usually don’t eat much in the mornings.”

“Must be the only time,” Roy quipped, and opened the pantry. It was more bare than Ed had hoped, but had more than he’d feared, at least. Roy tugged a knife out of the drawer and went to cutting the loaf.

At a loss for what to do, still more out of place than anything else in Roy’s kitchen, he drifted back to the seats by the counter, hitching himself up into one and watching Roy work. “It’s Friday, isn’t it?” he asked, as Roy put the bread down to toast. “Don’t you have work?”

Roy nodded. “I do, though because of the party last night, they’re expecting me in an hour later. I normally eat as I go, but –”

“You don’t spend much time here, huh.”

Roy paused, and the look he gave Ed was distinctly thoughtful. “No, Edward. I don’t.”

“Thought so.” Ed leaned his elbows against the countertop. “It doesn’t look like you do.”

Smiling wryly, Roy shrugged, digging a few jars of jams and marmalades from the pantry. “I — don’t have much reason to, really. These houses they give us are designed for married men and it’s too large for one person, really. I’m more comfortable at the office.”

“No single-person houses at all?” Ed raised an eyebrow. “They have several pretty fucking large single rooms in the dorms, too.” You have the house, he didn’t say, sipping at his coffee, but it’s nowhere near a home.

Roy sipped coffee. “They have some, but those go to the lower-ranking officers. I’m stuck with this place unless I want to undercut my rank.” He gestured to the jams. “… these are your options.”

He blinked at the row before him. “For a guy living by yourself, you’ve got a lot of variety.”

“Gracia’s fault, that one,” Roy admitted, voice and expression still wry. “Alicia’s growing up, and I think she wants someone else to take care of.”

Ed’s shoulders hunched a little. “… yeah, she sends us stuff sometimes too.”

“I’m glad she hasn’t lost touch,” Roy said, and there was something like confession in the tone. “They tend to.”

Ed’s head snapped up, and then he frowned, brow furrowing. “… do they, now?” He sighed, hunching his shoulders a bit. “I’m glad, too.”

“Yes,” Roy said, quiet. “Can I recommend the strawberry? She grew them in her yard.”

“She makes these?” Ed perked up slightly at that, reaching out and picking the small jar up, unscrewing the lid. “Mrs. Rockbell used to do that, too — she kept saying she’d teach Winry, but …” He closed his eyes and sniffed at the contents. “Not bad.”

The pause was almost imperceptible before Roy took a sip of coffee. “Perhaps she could ask Gracia,” he suggested. “I’ve no doubt they’d both enjoy that.”

“Maybe.” Ed reached for the knife, busying himself with spreading the jam within the jar. “I dunno, Winry’s not that good at cooking. Auntie Pinako tried to teach her — you’d think, with how good she is with automail, she’d be more careful in the kitchen, but …” He shrugged.

Roy flipped the toast with a spatula. “It’s not about the end result, though. Not really.”

“Still.” Ed licked the end of the knife, then considered. “Definitely not bad,” he said, sounding pleased. “I’ll tell her next time I write.”

Expression surprised, Roy just looked at him for a long moment, then nodded. “She’ll be happy to hear that.”

Ed grinned, then licked the rest of the knife clean. It was better than Mrs. Rockbell’s, he thought, and made a note to never mention that to Winry. Part of the knot in his stomach unraveled finally, and he let out a heartfelt sigh of relief.

“You’d be all right with her knowing, then?” Roy passed two slices of toast over and, almost as an afterthought, a plate.

“Huh?” Ed blinked, then began to spread jam across the toast. “Whadaya mean?”

Roy buttered his own toast. “She’s a remarkably perceptive woman, Hughes’s Gracia.”

Ed took a large bite and stared at Roy as he chewed.

Seeming almost uncomfortable under Ed’s gaze, Roy shrugged faintly and took the strawberry jam.

He swallowed, then frowned at Roy consideringly. “What are you talking about?”

“… there are relatively few people who get the opportunity to eat breakfast with me in my house, Edward.”

Ed paused with his mouth open for the next bite, then lowered the toast, blinking. Roy didn’t quite look at him, seemingly fascinated with the inside of the jam jar. After a moment, he swallowed again, and forced his voice to a casual tone as he said, “Not many people like to stay and eat?”

“I don’t,” Roy began, then took a sip of coffee and tried again. “I tend not to bring people back here. They’re not … it’s not that kind of relationship.”

“I see.” Ed’s fingers toyed with the crust of the toast, flaking crumbs onto his plate. “Hotels, then?”

There really couldn’t be anything all that interesting in the jar of jam. “Now and again.”

Ed took a deep breath, and put the toast back down onto his plate. “And the last time someone else was here?” he asked, barely above a whisper. Under his drawn brows, his eyes were painfully intent.

It was a few terribly long moments before Roy answered. “Well, this is the same place I’d had before I’d been transferred out East.”

“And you were out there for three years, I remember. So?”

“It was before I transferred,” Roy said, and put the jam jar down. “A few days before.”

“Ah.” It was on the tip of his tongue to ask who, and Ed bit back that question forcibly. “That’s … a long time.”

Roy turned his coffee mug in his hands. “It seems more personal at home.”

Ed studied his bent head, mouth pursed into a frown. The emptiness of the house, its lack of personality, seemed all the more suffocating for that revelation — but at the same time, more of the tightness in his stomach faded. Ed took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. “It is,” he said quietly. “I think so.”

“It’s,” Roy said, vaguely, waving his toast. “Just –”

He was interrupted by a honk from outside and sat up abruptly.

“M … Roy?”

“That’s Havoc,” Roy said, and sighed. “I have to get dressed. Finish breakfast up, I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“Ah,” Ed began, half-rising from his chair, but Roy had already left the room. With a frown, he sank back into his chair, picking thoughtfully at his half-finished toast.

Al was going to be insufferable, he thought, and groaned. The longer Al waited for him, the more sure Al was going to be about what had gone on. And, well, it had gone on, but …

At least this way, he didn’t have to tell Al.

He was still picking at his toast when Roy came down again, in uniform. “Here,” Roy said, and tossed something at him.

Ed caught it half by instinct and blinked at the keys dangling from his fingers. “Eh?”

“Let yourself out when you’re done eating.”

“Eh?” He looked up at Roy, brow furrowing. “But, what about when you’re done with work — ?”

Roy waved a hand dismissively. “They’re my spare set.”

Ed blinked, then swallowed hard, closing his fingers tightly around them. “I’ll — um. I can drop by the office later, return them to you –”

Coughing, Roy picked his coffee cup up and topped it off. “Ah, if you like. I’ve never lost my originals, so I don’t really need to keep track of that set.”

The horn honked again, insistently.

“Um.” Ed looked at Roy again, then smiled hesitantly, as though unsure of the expression. “Thank you.”

Roy walked over and looked down at him. He started to bend down, then hesitated. “Ah — it’s fine.”

“You sure?” Ed tilted his face up to Roy’s, a slight line of concern knitting his brows together. “If you need them, I’m only helping Al with some research today, I can come by.”

Roy exhaled, slowly. “I’m sure,” he said, and brushed his lips over Ed’s, lightly. “If you’re worried about it, you can copy them and return those, though.”

Ed’s eyes fluttered shut for a moment, and then he smiled again, feeling weirdly shy. “I can do that.”

“Good,” Roy said, not quite smiling. “Do that, then.” His shoulders hunched as the horn sounded again and an exasperated look crossed his face. “Oh, for –”

Ed grinned and waved towards the door. “Go on,” he said. “Lt. Hawkeye’s gonna be pissed if you’re any later than you already are.”

Roy sighed, rubbing at his head a moment and ruffling his hair. “Well, no help for it. Enjoy breakfast, Edward.”

“Have a good day,” Ed offered, as Roy began to walk away.

“Good luck with your research,” Roy answered, and headed out to the car.

Ed waited until he heard the front door, then sagged back in his chair with an explosive outwards breath.

The keys were warm in his hand from his body’s heat. He raised them again, dangling them between his fingers — two keys, presumably for the front and back door respectively.

“Well,” he said aloud.

It wasn’t entirely what he’d been expecting, not after Roy’s confession of the last person he’d brought to this house. And if it had been only a few days before the transfer, then no matter how personal that relationship had been, it couldn’t have lasted long, not with the two of them separated.

He still wanted to ask, but — that question could wait for now.

Almost idly, he raised the last of his toast to eat it, still staring at the keys as if they’d tell him something. With the way the universe went, Roy would probably lose his originals within the hour, now that he didn’t have a spare set to fall back on. He’d have to make the copies soon, he thought.

He stuffed the rest of his toast in his mouth, then carried the plate over to drop into the sink. He could do that on his way back to the dorms, he thought, and if Al would have been smug before, Ed was halfway afraid to consider what would happen if he brought back keys to Roy’s house with him.

“All right,” he muttered. “Let’s see how this goes.”

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